US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo returned to harsh criticism of China on Wednesday, blaming it for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people by the coronavirus and again demanding that it share information about the outbreak.
“They knew. China could have prevented the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. China could have saved the world from suffering a global economic malaise, ”said Pompeo at a press conference at the State Department.
“China still refuses to share the information it needs to keep people safe.”
Covid-19 has killed more than 255,000 people worldwide, including more than 70,000 in the United States, the country most affected by the disease, according to official statistics.
The virus first appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December. Most experts believe that it originated in a market for the sale of wild animals and went from animals to people, but Pompeo said there is significant evidence that it came from a laboratory.
Critics of President Donald Trump within the US, including some former officials, academics and columnists, have said that while China has a lot to answer for in its early days of the outbreak, the US government is trying to divert attention from the that they see as a slow US response.
At an event at the White House, Trump, who is seeking re-election in November, called the outbreak the worst “attack” the country has ever suffered and blamed China for not stopping it.
“This is worse than Pearl Harbor. This is worse than the World Trade Center, ”said Trump. “And it should never have happened. It could have been stopped at the source. It could have been stopped in China. It should have been stopped exactly at the source, and it was not. ”
Pompeo countered suggestions that he and other members of the Trump administration have issued conflicting statements about the exact origins of the new coronavirus.
On Sunday, Pompeo said there was “a significant amount of evidence” that the virus appeared at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and on the previous Thursday he said it was not known whether it came from the laboratory, the wild animal market or from somewhere else.
On Wednesday, Pompeo said the United States was unsure, but there was significant evidence that it emerged from the laboratory.
“Each of these statements is completely consistent,” he said. “We are all trying to find the right answer. We are all trying to clarify.”
The Wuhan Institute of Virology, supported by the Chinese state, says the virus did not originate there.